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The Sovereignty of Good 2nd Edition

9 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0415253994
ISBN-10: 0415253993
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Editorial Reviews


'One of the very few modern books of philosophy which people outside academic philosophy find really useful.' - Mary Midgely

' ... Murdoch's attack is the fruit of a thorough professional involvement with the school of thought to which she is opposed.' - Anthony Quinton, Sunday Telegraph

'All three essays which make up this book, The Idea of Perfection, On `God' and `Good', and The Sovereignty of Good over Other Concepts, are superb.' - The Guardian

About the Author

Dame Iris Murdoch (1919-1999). Irish-born British novelist and philosopher. Recipient of numerous awards and accolades, including the Booker McConnell prize and the Whitbread prize.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 126 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; 2 edition (May 25, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415253993
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415253994
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.3 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #340,183 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Iris Murdoch (1919-1999) was one of the most influential British writers of the twentieth century. She was awarded the 1978 Booker Prize for The Sea, The Sea, won the Royal Society Literary Award in 1987, and was made a Dame of the British Empire in 1987 by Queen Elizabeth. Her final years were clouded by a long struggle with Alzheimer's before her passing in 1999.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

72 of 74 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Davis VINE VOICE on March 6, 2005
Format: Paperback
It might seem odd that the other review of this book ('Lucid and brilliant') describes her moral philosophy as "a kind of Anglican conservatism" since Dame Iris was an atheist. However, I have to agree that she could largely stand in the tradition of Bishop Joseph Butler (1692-1752), the great Anglican theologian and philosopher, who largely represents what might be considered traditional English or Anglican moral ethics. The similarities are due to the fact that Murdoch, while an atheist, was not a materialist by any means. She was a Platonist -- in about as pure a sense as you can imagine -- and Platonism was/is highly influential in Anglican (not to mention, Roman Catholic) thought. While she does tweak Plato a bit, her moral realism is amazingly congruent with that of Plato. For instance, she speaks much of the Good as that which we must direct our attention and even love towards. Naturally, she attacks the dominant moral theories of the modern era -- deontological/Kantian and utilitatarian ethics -- in much the same way that G.E.M. Anscombe did in her essay, "Modern Moral Philosophy" (1958), which revived virtue ethics. If you enjoy Miss Anscombe or other similar, pro-metaphysical moral philosophers of the 20th century (such as Simone Weil or Alasdair MacIntyre), then you will surely enjoy this book.

In 1992, Iris Murdoch (who mostly wrote novels) expanded her ideas on ethics in her book, 'Metaphysics As a Guide to Morals.' This is a much larger work and would greatly benefit from reading The Sovereignty of Good first. All of her essential moral concepts are found in The Sovereignty of Good, in a clear and succinct manner. However, her views, like all philosophies, are not without criticisms.
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51 of 51 people found the following review helpful By Hypatian on May 17, 2012
Format: Paperback
While the essays in "The Sovereignty of Good" are definitely worth reading, I wish I would not have bought them in this edition. Routledge is asking $15 for this book. I have found numerous typographical errors, which is inexcusable given that the book has been reprinted many times since 2001. Additionally, it contains no new notes or introductions. It is merely a reprinting of 1970 version of the text. Finally, the physical book just feels a bit cheap. Really, for the price and from this publisher, I expected more.

I recently discovered that for just a few dollars more, I could have bought "Existentialists and Mystics"(Penguin, 2001). It contains the text of "The Sovereignty of the Good" along with nearly two dozen additional essays by Murdoch. The editors have also included explanatory notes which will be helpful for readers who have limited knowledge of mid-twentieth century philosophy. For instance, when Murdoch discusses McTaggart and Hampshire in "The Idea of Perfection", she does not offer full citations for the essays and books she references (at least such citations are not included in the Routledge reprinting). The editors of "Existentialists and Mystics" include the citations and offer brief notes about books and authors. Simple? Yes, but also time-saving. (Who wants to do a Google search in the middle of reading a good argument?)

Anyway, I will be buying "Existentialists and Mystics" in short order. I'll use the Routledge either as my mark-up or lend-out copy of the text. But I recommend you save yourself the trouble and buy the right book the first time.
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46 of 56 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 17, 2000
Format: Paperback
Murdoch's clarity and keenness as a thinker are everywhere evident in the three essays that comprise this short book. It is at once a kind of paean to common sense and an intricate philosophical working-through of fundamental human dillemmas.
In the subject of moral philosophy, Murdoch clearly comes down on the side of what many might feel to be a kind of Anglican conservatism, though a careful reading will, I think, reveal the deep sense of connectedness and love which inform her thinking. In particular, the book offers a fertile critique of central concepts in existential thought, and of the moral relativism which postmodern philosophy can sometimes engender.
Readers of her novels in particular will appreciate this glimpse of Murdoch's philosophical thought, and will notice how it informs her craft as an artist.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By James Henderson on July 28, 2010
Format: Paperback
The nature of goodness is an issue today in the writings of Iris Murdoch. The Sovereignty of Good includes three essays by her. In reading her essay, "The Sovereignty of Good over other concepts", I found her returning to the allegory of the cave and the metaphor of the Sun that I first read in Plato. Murdoch claims that "'Good is a transcendent reality' means that virtue is the attempt to pierce the veil of selfish consciousness and join the world as it really is." (p 91) For Murdoch this is a claim that Art is the way that humans can reach this unity in that,
"The mind which has ascended to the vision of the Good can subsequently see concepts through which it has ascended (art, work, nature, people, ideas, institutions, situations, etc.) in their true nature and in their proper relationships to each other." (p 92)
The discussion of the good by Iris Murdoch reconsiders this and other themes found in Marcus Aurelius and Plato. It is a difficult but worthwhile read.
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